Monday, October 31, 2011

Intermission, Carmen

I headed for the nearest refreshment stand in search of anything to assuage my hunger. The choices, unfortunately were cookie, cookie or cookie. I opted for a Big Cookie , paid my $4(!) for a single cookie(!), slung my vintage evening bag -- seventy years old and a hand-me-down from my mother -- across my arm and began to make my way through the wine-sipping crowd. The cookie was ridiculously big, and cake-like, and I decided to break off a piece instead of taking a bite from the whole thing. When I did that, a big chunk crumbled off and fell -- ah! Dinner on the floor! Did it again, and another chunk fell to crumbs at my feet. Damn. At least it wasn't very good. Tasted like whoever the baker was substituted oil for butter to cut costs, and didn't add any salt to compensate. Bland damn thing, even with the chocolate chips.

The cookie was crumbly, I was grumbly and still hungry. Then someone pointed to me, pointed to the carpet and said, "I think you lost something."

About four steps back was my iPhone. As I stooped to pick it up, one person, and another, and then another stepped in front of me -- as if choreographed -- hands extended with currency. What the? For me??!! I couldn't figure out what was happening, but as long as people were stepping out to hand me cash, I was going to grab it.

Then I figured it out: after I paid for the Big Cookie, the ancient clasp (shaped like a rose, gold-toned) had failed, and my vintage silk evening bag, slung near my elbow, was swinging wide and free. And I, (as Gretel), while attempting to negotiate my Big! Cookie! was leaving a trail of not only crumbs and cookie chunks but five-dollar bills as well.

After a good long laugh, I headed back to my seat. As the curtain rose for Act II, I had a short-lived moment of panic, thinking "Keys!" In the darkened performance hall, I reached my hands into the shallows of the purse: credit card, driver's license, lip gloss, phone and, yes, keys. Whew.

The whole story would've been much better, of course, if I'd ended up with more cash than I started with, and even better yet if each handing-over of cash was accompanied by an aria excerpt. Come on people! Be dramatic!

But I don't wish to appear ungrateful.
So thank-you to the good people of Seattle, thank-you taffeta-skirted opera-goers!

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Getting into the trenches, the deep deep archival depths, on the borderlands of gravity. Reaching up to top shelves and pulling down the reams of legal paperwork from seven, eight years ago, nearly puking at the language, the presumptions of people that I paid $$$ to drive away demons. (And who were not really all that successful.)

So out I went with my box of baggage, to the fire pit which hasn't been lit yet since I've returned to B-Street. I sat in the nearly-dark and lit the whole of it, sent flaring paper-fluff & embered bits high into the air until it all vanished. The rain held back save for a drop or three. Warm enough to go coatless. No cats.

What pleasure to be done with it -- that box of saved damages, the evidence of a life prior to the most recent undoing: the layers and layers upon which a life is stacked. I must say it's teetery here at these heights, but I'm feeling an approaching balance, albeit faint as yet, and tinged with smoke, fogged at the edges.

Consider this:

The words solitary and solace both contain the word sol.
(And precariously close to the word soul!)
(The sun each of us holds within.)


I'll be 55 in a week, and would not have guessed that I'd be rebuilding a life at this age. But then, the surprise of sorrow may as easily be the surprise of joy: equally possible.

I say Bring It On.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lucky me -- I have a friend who does reviews for a Seattle arts organization and gets free tickets to various events, and last night she invited me to Carmen at Seattle Opera: fabulous.

I'm generally about a 50% opera fan -- I can listen to about half of any opera before my ears start to go wonky with the tremendous vibrato pounding my eardrums. But Carmen was an over-the-top spectacle of non-stop color, dance, costume and song.

AND there's the added bonus of seeing ordinary people in their not-s0-ordinary going-to-the-opera costumes. Seattle, with its recent roots embedded in grunge, tends to dress-d0wn for most everything, and neutral tones are de rigeur in this city. Clothing and fabrics tend to reflect the sky (grey) and the soil (brown). Not so at the opera. I saw women in full-length taffeta strapless gowns with -- get this -- color! Woot! Not so many man in tuxedos, but there were a few. And as expected, the birkenstock/feed-sack crowd was appropriately represented.

Our seats were Orchestra Center -- about ten rows from the front. Hard to beat.

Sitting there in the first act, the stage aswirl with skirts, dance and song, I couldn't help thinking of the color-names of the oil paints that just a few hours before I'd been rubbing onto sand-blasted glass: Prussian blue, luminous violet, brown-pink. I couldn't help thinking that everything one experiences in life is linked to something else. Earlier in the day, these colors were at hand, just inches from my eyes. And then there they were on stage, in glorious lighting, a spectacle that seemed to crawl into my every cell and take up residence for those few hours, and that lingers still, the next morning, in the muted rainy greens and slate greys of an off-stage Saturday.

Off now -- it's grape pressing time!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Enigma of the Keys

Is this staring me in the face?
If it is, I'm lost.

As are several more keys.

The day following my lost-and-then-found-in-the-apron key adventure, Melinda (for whom I work) suffered a key disappearance after opening the trunk of her car. Between the car and the kitchen, her keys did their magic act. And no white bunny of fortune to point us in the right direction. We looked:

1) in the car
2) in the street
3) in the garden
4) on the porch
5) under the porch
6) in the kitchen
7) under the kitchen

No luck.
A mystery.
A *poof* of disappearance.

And today, the secret hidden spare also went missing, with the last remaining set of keys inside the house and both Melinda and I outside the house.

No, it wasn't in my apron.
It wasn't in my jacket pocket.
It wasn't anywhere.

It isn't anywhere. And although that's technically impossible, it's what I believe. It is GONE. Whoosh.

The locksmith arrived while we both shivered in the October chill, and told us that he recently went to a job on Norman Street. His first name is Norman. The next street over was the same name as his last name. What are the odds of this? He said he was able to take a photo with both street signs visible. Cool.

Then he waxed philosophical on the value of locksmiths, and said that a previous governor, Gary Locke, enacted a Locksmith Appreciation Day. I asked Norman if that had anything to do with the fact that the governor's last name was, well, Locke.

"Well!" He said. "I hadn't considered that!"

Well indeed.

He also said that, in light of the fact that Melinda's assistant called the locksmith and not Melinda-the-homeowner-herself, he (Norman) could be charged with a felony if this wasn't indeed Melinda's home. A quick show of ID remedied that worry. I mean, what if we were two middle-aged woman burglars sitting out in the cold trying to gain access to someone else's house? Cherish the thought.

But the thought I'm cherishing -- or not -- at the moment, is this ongoing theme of lost keys.

Lost keys.
Entry denied.
The opening of doors.
The opening of new doors.
The reaching for the unreachable.
Entry gained.

It's a cliche, and threatens to smack me in the head, this symbolism. But sometimes synchronicity isn't just synchronicity.

Equal Temperament

More about this later.
My head is too filled up at the moment with the science, the mechanics
and the mathematics of sound.
Got it?
Me neither.

\sqrt[12]{2}=2^{\frac{1}{12}}\approx 1.059463094359295264561825294946
\approx  \frac {18}{17}=1.05882352941176 (98.9545922303676 CENT)
\approx  \frac {107}{101}=1.05940594059405 (99.9066043792227 CENT)
\approx  \frac {11011}{10393}=1.05946310016357 (100.0000094845790 CENT)
\approx  \frac {18904}{17843}=1.05946309477106 (100.0000006728490 CENT)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The first inspiration of today comes from Elizabeth at a moon, worn as if it had been a shell. She's a baker extraordinaire, and when she writes about food, I always want to drop everything and head to the kitchen. Elizabeth is taking a class called Food Crafting 101 -- a kind of home-economics redux, where she'll make cheese, jam, bread, and mustard, etc.

I suggested to my son that we make our own mustard, and he said, "I've done it."


It's hard to find something he hasn't made.

Last week it was ice-cream, again, and -- the brat -- he failed to let me know that there was HOMEMADE DARK CHOCOLATE PEANUT-BUTTER CHUNK ICE CREAM in the freezer. This is grounds for expulsion, I think, but then, who else would come into my kitchen and cook up a storm of everything marvelous?!

This is my small benefit of the recession and an unemployed son. One can always find blessings, often right under one's nose (and apparently in one's freezer).

But back to the ice cream: the first spoonful, and the second, and the third, ad infinitum, was an OMG moment. An OMGOL moment. (O! My! God! [Out Loud!]) So chocolately (gawd, I sound like Keebler elf) it was almost black, with spoonfuls of chunky peanut butter. Sublime.

Earlier this summer, there was fresh coconut ice cream, served with sugared blackberries just moments off the stem, and then there was fresh blackberry ice cream with a color so deeply and so perfectly purple I wanted to sit down and weep. Wanted to roll in it. Wanted to wear it, which I would've done had I given in to the urge to roll.

I do believe my son has found his niche.

Anyone looking for an ice-cream maker? That is, a human one?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spirits ran fairly high all summer, despite the barrage of seemingly never-ending Major Life Events. Walks to-and-from work buzzed with activity: people gardening, people playing music with all the doors and windows open, people walking to the store. Children riding bikes, children in the middle of the street with balls, children on the sidewalk, bright chalk at hand.

Fresh-cut grass, smoke from a grill, the sweet vanilla breeze from my neighbor's hedge in bloom. From every house and from every life: evidence of the here & now.

A child's cry from down the alley. From an open kitchen window, the clink of dishes being washed. From the synagogue: chanting, or prayer, low and rhythmical.

Life hummed along at a pleasant pitch. Bees hummed in lavender, and if someone told me that tomatoes hummed in their ripening in parking-strip gardens, I would have listened, and I would have heard.

Then every evening: dinner in the garden, a glass of wine beneath the kiwi and grape vines, an abundance of birds in the apple trees. I existed outdoors: a walk around the block at dusk, a midnight accounting of stars from my upstairs balcony.

And now with autumn in full leaf-fall, everything appears shut down, closed out, turned inwards. My one-mile on-foot commute is minus the soundtrack of people living their urban lives. Curtains are drawn, windows latched. And only a few bees persist on the last few flowers: cosmos, calendula, here and there a dwindling rose. A sudden damping-down in the volume of life, a volume that, in summer, was easy to keep wound-up.

Descending into melancholy.
Feeding it, one song at a time.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Take my advice and take shelter from "Take Shelter"....

In his October 17th review of the movie "Take Shelter" in The New Yorker, David Denby states that our protagonist, the apparently paranoid-schizophrenic young husband/father Curtis (played by Michael Shannon) is "definitely paranoid" but "not totally crazy."

On the screen we watch Curtis conjure -- in his mind only -- terrifying and ominous lightning storms, tornadoes, and clouds of menacing crows. He loses his job while rebuilding a tornado (aka bomb) shelter in his back yard, loses his closest friend, and nearly loses his marriage. It's a movie about mental illness with all the cliches about mental illness: the delusional "crazy" man doing delusional "crazy" things.

David Denby, on the other hand, sees a greater metaphor, that, for me, was sorely lacking and, if it exists at all, is beat to death by the ponderous and repetitive takes of Curtis' twitching eye or his wife Samantha's (Jessica Chastain) full-lipped, red-haired stares of incredulity. Denby states that "Take Shelter" could become as iconic an image of this moment of American unease as Edvard Munch’s 'The Scream' has become for all the anxieties of modern life.

Did I miss something? This movie drowns itself in the tired fantastical notion of what too many people consider mental illness to be. In real life, mental illness often drags along those suffering from it day after day. Drags along, drags down. Drags. Sure, there may be drama, but it's often a more quiet, insidious drama, or any number of small dramas piling up one atop the other. There is no ridiculously dramatic soundtrack in real life, and, if there's a denouement, it exists, as in all of life, in death.

Admittedly, this is my soapbox rant -- I've dealt with mental health issues, and have been an advocate for mental health education, all my life. It is something I know intimately. It's an illness, not an "attitude problem". You can't fix it by "pulling up your bootstraps" or "looking on the bright side", just as you can't cure emphysema or diabetes or cancer by "bucking up". And furthermore, if someone close to you came to you with a diagnosis of any life-threatening illness other than mental illness, would you tell them that they just need to be more positive?

It's a condition for which, often, you need the meds so that you have the where-with-all to ask for the meds. That's where, for me, the "crazy" part comes in. It's insidious. Confounding. Enraging. Life-destroying.

When I say I know this intimately, I don't say it lightly. My first husband's death was caused by untreated -- or, actually, self-medicated -- mental illness. Two days prior to his car accident, he agreed, finally, to seek help. Too late.

Mental illness played a major role in the disintegration of my second marriage. I've intervened in attempted suicides (yes, plural) and have initiated and participated in less life-threatening interventions, some of which have been successful, some not. There's no "fix". There's no cure. Brain science is primitive at best, but when something works, when a medication allows life to happen, with a degree of happiness and success that would otherwise flat-out not be impossible, then by god, bring on the meds.

If I hadn't been sitting smack in the middle of the theater last night, I would've walked out -- and I had the notion to do that several times.

Towards the end of "Take Shelter", we see Curtis and his wife speaking to a psychiatrist who suggests in-patient treatment. I thought -- okay, this is a redeeming moment on the part of the film-maker. He might have slammed us with cliches, but at least at the end, he's taking a responsible role. (Although I thoroughly expected to hear the words "insane asylum" at any moment.) But my relief was short-lived: he throws it all away in the closing scene, and I left the theater spitting nails. (With apologies to my movie companion.)

Denby goes on to say that "the movie makes you uncomfortable, but in a good way." Oh please. Let's ditch the horror-movie romanticizing of mental illness. I know -- no one made me go to this movie. It was my choice, but based on a review by a critic whose writing I respect. And who let me down.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lament for a Rainy Friday

Getting ready to walk to work in the rain....a piece of music
I'd like to learn.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Perfect Tree

It's officially Autumn and here's the Official Tree:

It belongs to someone named John, or Johnny, with a last name I've heard pronounced a half-dozen ways. What I remember is Johnny Eubanks, which has evolved, in my head, to Bob Eubanks, who hosted the original Newleywed game, which debuted in 1966.

This tree is not owned by Bob Eubanks, though. I'm sure of that. Bob lives somewhere in California, I'm guessing, and doesn't own a little pickup truck and is most likely not a carpenter. Johnny Eubanks, aka something else, does own a little pickup truck and is a carpenter. And is the owner of this fabulousness....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Encounters, by Chance

Leaving work today on foot, I headed downhill to Columbia City to meet a friend for a drink. Halfway to my destination, I encountered a tall, thin young man wearing tiny wire-framed glasses and a close-fitting green jacket & jeans,  with a complexion so pale you'd miss him if you blinked.

"Excuse me," he said, holding out a green seedpod for my perusal, "but do you know the name of this tree?" He pointed to a tree in the parking strip about thirty feet away.

I peered down at the odd-looking fruit in his hand. I peered at him. He resembled the tree for which he was seeking identification, and his jacket was the same color as the seed pod.

"No, but I have this cool iPhone app called Leafsnap and I can look it up. All I have to do is take a photo of the leaf, and it'll give me a list of possible trees."

"Really? I iPhone app? Huh? You can?"


Yikes. What was I doing?! I was already late for my drink.

"And," I said, "failing that, I know who lives in this house. She'll know the name of the tree for sure."

Again from the young man, "REALLY?!"

I plucked a leaf from a branch, laid it down on the sidewalk to photograph. (Leafsnap instructions: lay leaf on white surface. Uh, no.) At the same time, I was ambushed by an excited wiggle-and-twist of blond fur: Leishka -- my friend Connie's dog -- unleashed and jumping on me and licking and nipping at me, way too happy. The leaf flew up and away, disappeared. The thin young man stood aside, a kind of half-smile overtaking his face. Leishka was loose! Where was Connie?

Abandoning my tree-name-seeker, I went in search of Connie, found her embedded in foliage at the side of her house, hard at the work of fall-cleanup. Leishka levitated and yipped at me, desperate for my attention. What the heck? This dog was literally jumping straight up, as if on a trampoline. Circus dog. Tricks.

Connie pushed a gentling hand down on the dog's side, shushed her, calmed her.

"Hey Connie. This guy wants to know the name of that tree."

"Styrex Japonica."

Count on Connie to whip out the Latin, lickety split. Connie: a quiet, steady intelligence. A reliable intellect.

Our Thin Man nodded, satisfied, then asked a most unexpected question:

"Do you know the location of any artesian wells? I've heard there are a few, but can't find them."

And even more amazing, was Connie's immediate response. I mean, she didn't even take a breath, she was so certain:

"Yes," she said, matter-of-fact. "In Lynnwood. Take I-405, exit to Lynnwood, follow the exit ramp west until you see a bunch of people lined up. That's the well."

"Oh." Mr. Thin Man. "I've heard of that one, but do you know the address?"

Aha! iPhone!

Me: "It's on 164th Street, just off I-5."

"Wait -- you just looked it up on your phone?"

I thought: this is all so strange. I'm late meeting a friend. A stranger asks me to identify a tree. I'm set-upon by a small dog named Leishka, followed by a discussion about local artesian wells. I don't think I've ever even said the two words artesian wells out loud. Ever.

I made my exit, abandoning trees & water-talk, exuberant dogs.

Did I leaf them (and the barking) in peace? (Well, yes.)

(Note: sometimes a conversation about a tree is just a conversation about a tree. No social/psychological/cryptic/symbolic/metaphorical significance.)

The End.

Lost & Stuff

Apparently there is an iPhone app for finding lost keys -- here -- go figure -- but on Sunday I couldn't brag that I was in possession of any such device when my keys vanished -- whoosh, gone.

Riles and I were up to our elbows in pie crust and apples when our neighbor Roy knocked on the door to help us move The Behemoth (an ugly white vinyl massaging recliner acquired by my younger son and then conveniently abandoned when he moved out -- presto! Out of sight, out of mind.) It weighs slightly less than this:

And moving it Out Of The House required tripping it down ten steps. Not something I was going to attempt without sufficient manpower. Moved my car from the driveway so we could park The Behemoth beneath a tarp in the shadow of the quince.

And then finally: done.

I stood outside in the chilly October afternoon, no coat, and chatted with Roy about learning to play the concertina by watching YouTube videos; and Roy, an old-time fiddle player and, at age 65 (or so) approaching the state of a grizzled, lean H. Brandonium, demonstrated clog-dancing that he learned from -- yes, watching YouTube videos. Roy does nothing without wit and a wryly-humorous narrative, and within seconds I was overtaken with delighted laughter at his fancy footwork and tale of feeling oddly embarrassed practicing clogging alone in front of the computer screen.

Back inside, Riles and I resumed our apple-turnover adventure. Once they were in the oven, we continued the seemingly never-ending task of Cleaning Out Stuff. I've been back in this house nearly six months now, and it feels like I'll never fully liberate it from its fraternity-house atmosphere. New paint helps, as does the reinvented bathroom.

But: STUFF. I believe that once you are successful in removing any amount of STUFF from a house, the remaining STUFF not only inflates itself to fill the newly vacated space, it undergoes a kind of mitosis. Replication of STUFF is a bad thing. And there's a sneaking suspicion that it happens in my house the minute I leave a room. Emptied and then: BAM! Filled. Repeat.

We had to prepare a third and final room for painting, and I'd been amazingly successful at avoiding this room all summer. Because it was already filled with STUFF, it became the receptacle for all STUFF that couldn't find a home, including:

1. a single black hiking boot
2. a popover tin
3. strewn baseball cards
4. a mattress
5. a survival-print coverall
6. a box of transformers
7. retired baseball caps
8. a pile of mismatched gloves
9. pennies
10. other

My biggest achievement of the day, other than the banishment of The Behemoth, was in discovering that surface of my dining room table, piled-high with STUFF for months -- apparently it's a lovely butcher-block oak table, circa 1980. Go figure.

The kitchen now fragrant with cinnamon and golden pie crust, I hung up my apron and prepared to go out for the evening.

And no keys.

A cursory search yielded nothing, and even fewer clues. And because we'd moved and cleaned so much in the prior hour, nothing was where it used to be. I took the search to the second level, seeking out keys behind and under sofas, in and under sofa cushions, under tables and under chair cushions, in boxes where the tiny bits of accumulated and random STUFF had, by default, congregated. 


Level Three: garbage can, food waste bin, recycling bin.

Again: nothing.


Level Four: up and down the front steps, with a flashlight in the garden on either side of the steps, to-and-from the car (tidily locked up, no keys within), in-and-around the tarped Behemoth.

Nothing nothing nothing.

Screamingly: nothing.

My friend Tom came over and helped -- or should I say, "god help me, there's someone digging in the darkest corners of my house aka my subconscious." I felt flayed open, unmasked, denuded. Tried to keep my mind from wondering what Tom would find other than keys. Yikes.

But still no keys. They didn't seem to be hidden, wedged, under, between, or even in plain sight anywhere.

I gave up for the night -- and resumed my futile quest in the morning.

Now for the math:

no keys + no spares = no car

no keys + no car title yet (complication of dee-vorce) = communication with ex, re: spares?

text message to ex + voice mail from ex = more complicated title info and still no spare key

voice mail from ex [after months of < zero communication]  ≈ anxiety multiplied by π = I have to wait ten days until new copy of title arrives.

(Grrrrrr.) (Hrrrrmmmphhh.)

 Remember all those kids in high school math questioning the point of taking any math at all, and the question, "When will I ever use this?"

Well, apparently they never anticipated losing their car keys while making π.


(No, the keys were not embedded in an apple turnover.)

Having hithered and dithered for an entire workday about the absence of keys, I came home and got out the ingredients for a nice sausage-kale-potato soup. I donned the necessary apron, which fell off the hook into my hands with an uncommon weight and a jingle: AHA!

But nothing is without its lesson and delights: in searching, I was inclined to think that the reason for the keys' invisibility was my overabundance of STUFF -- that they'd become lost in the swirl of getting-rid-of, had become victim to my desire to purge and purge again. And then the sound of my ex on the voice mail, like a ghost, as dee-vorce is so much a death in its own right, sent a disturbing chill up my back and into my skull, wrapped its wriath-like fingers around the lobes of my brain. There was the actual physical sensation of a punch to my gut. And yet there he was, with his verbal explanation, in nearly live-time, recorded for all perpetuity on my iPhone. And for all intents and purposes (for all intentional purposes?) dead to me. 

The perspective gained, from yesterday to today, is significant. Yesterday I was myself lost to any freedom to move forward, albeit if only by car, and the world seemed locked out to me, inhabited by voice-mail ghosts. Felt as if, once I closed a door behind me, I'd never again go back through it. 

But it wasn't the presence of STUFF. I wasn't locked out to anything except my ability to consider that this was merely a single day, with its minimal significance. 

I can appropriately blame the misplacement of keys with my apron-wearing obsession and my own rapidly-leaping thought process. My brain had already moved on to pie when I unconsciously slipped the key-ring into the apron pocket.

And now, a day later, I can say that I've repossessed the key(s) to a happiness, of sorts -- a happiness that was always here. (Kind of a Dorothy-returning-to-Kansas experience.) And that doors everywhere are opening to my command.

Who wants pie?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Recent Archaeological Discoveries

Recent excavations, in preparation for painting my bathroom, have unearthed a number of curiosities that are worth making note of:

1. Cisorium Dullbladia
     origin: small drawer, upper left corner
     content: metals of unknown composition, rust, lint fibers
     use: primarily for trimming the fur of the upper lip of male members of H. Brandonium

2. Pinnium Diaperium
     origin: beneath clawfoot bathtub
     content: mid twentieth-century plastic, steel
     use: for joining together two pieces of woven cotton fabric, generally worn by bantlings of the tribe of H. Brandonium; considered a rare find

3. Pinkus Rockus
     origin: somewhere on earth, in the vicinity of my bathroom pipes
     content: a rock-like substance (unrelated-to and pre-dating cheeselike substances)
     age: 2.7 to 3.19 million years
     use: decorative but generally thought to be without practical applications

4. Buttonium Propogandia
     origin: under Ace bandage, middle shelf of cupboard
     use: worn as bodily ornamentation; often employed as a means of socio-political communication

5. Lancet
     origin: inside corner of small drawer; required use of fingernail to extract from wedged-in position
     content: carbon steel
     use: small surgeries, ie., splinter extraction

6. Broachium Aviarium
     origin: lower drawer stratum, possibly originating in the Far East
     content: painted tin
     use: generally considered a common trinket in its day; of little monetary value, although may be extinct

7. "Temple of Heaven" Unguent
     origin: middle bathroom
     content: camphor, mineral wax
     use:  commonly employed by early H. Brandonium to relieve various itches    

8. Corkus Runtus
     origin: bottom-most layer of cabinet debris
     use: known to function as a stopper for a salt shaker, although findings are as yet unverified


Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Hoh Rain Forest

Could've spent weeks here.
Alas, it was only a few hours.
BUT, at least the rain forest lived up to its name: RAIN Forest.
Soaking, soaking & soaking.

Beside the Hoh River --

Taken from the car window --

In the Hall of Mosses --

The floor of the canopy --

Along the trail --

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Second & Third Beaches, Olympic National Park

We traversed an enchanted forest, where, ninety years ago, 170mph winds ripped through the landscape and laid bare most everything. It’s second growth now, but with odd bearded sprites of branch & moss-draped twigs & mushrooms sprouting from bark and humus. 

Ancient nurse-stumps give a root-bed to multiple trees: spruce, hemlock, fir. 

Where the path twisted, an outcropping of white fungi hugged the Douglas fir trunks, appearing as crab nebula, or deskulled brains, or something placental, dripping essential fluid. I’d inadvertently left on my camera’s flash, and a serendipitous surprise came into sight on the instant-replay: the burst of light had illuminated the raindrops, otherwise not so intensely visible. O happy accident of technology!

Sea stacks, drifts of wave-tossed logs, the churning sea. Stood well back up on an embankment and watched the surf play pick-up-stix with broad-based trees. A young woman walked unconcerned through the powerful waves, in and amongst the erratic floating logs. Part selkie?  She disappeared beyond a headland. Was she ever even there?

Rain and more rain, slick logs and slipping mud. I felt wet underneath my skin: the waterproof-jacket-self-contained-sauna syndrome, incurred while exercising vigorously in wet weather. Part of me wondered, what’s the point? Did it matter that I was soaked with sweat rather than rainwater?
Back at the cabin, the bathroom was designated as “Italy” with the heat cranked up and a forest of wet clothing became its interior landscape.

Monday, October 10, 2011

First Beach. La Push. Quileute Indian Reservation


And had forgotten just how much I love this part of the world, my part of the world, going on fifteen years since I’ve been to this northwest corner of the continental United States.. Not that I’ve minded cavorting on other parts of the planet, but this is one of my holy places, and it’s almost in my back yard. Well, a ferry ride and a three-hour drive away, but still. Through Douglas fir and spruce forest-farms and mist-shrouded valleys, in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains which never came into view Sunday for all the clouds, in a temperate rain forest where annually 300 inches of rain descend from the sky.  
Twenty minutes into walking on First Beach, there came into view
two seals, a sea lion, a pair of eagles and a fly-by of pelicans,
one after another and another.
And some sun, if only just barely.

The beached rippage of upended trees, the roots flounced up,
exposing a hollowed-out trunk big enough to set up camp in.

A gradation of flat stones, from palm-sized

to diminishing in size until they became sand.

Unassailable headlands.
I stood at the foot of cliffsides and ran my hands over
salty-wet moss and barnacles, leaned my shoulders
into the rock faces and then high-stepped away
from incoming waves, quickly quickly.
A roil of sea at my back.

So much the need to be here, to choose one flat black stone
and name it Absence of All Things Good.
To fling it hard and cutting into the surf.
To let it go.
To turn my back and walk away.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


The muse has been largely absent, although she's made his/herself known for a few fleeting moments in cognito, saying things like:

There's a pound of frozen venison in my freezer, and I don't know where it came from.


I hate gangrene in the morning.

And then:

I could use some help with this weed problem.

And of course:

He had a cupboard full of Bazooka bubble gum. 
He was always a soldier.
He died in the Beirut bombing.

What to do?

I'm stumped.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Conversation, Part Two

Tradesmen, and women.

This seems to be my life these days, and it's a good life.

My nephew switched out a weight of old galvanized plumbing for plastic, lucky that it's all still exposed in the nether-regions of the house, the down-under.

I went to the basement tonight to change the wash and I swear -- there was the scent of centuries and centuries of stone, that damp heaviness that comes with October rain. The words ancient and medieval came to mind. Silly! A hundred+ years -- my house was built in 1908 -- isn't a long time by some standards, but I love the notion of this century-old dwelling upon which I've set my life. It's my old workhorse of a house, practical, never fancy. It just is.

I'm just lucky, I think.

My nephew, who I see maybe twice a year, sat down, after his piping-about, to have a beer. He's 35, loquacious, energetic, outgoing -- and couldn't be more different from me. He leans towards the right, whereas my lean is decidedly left. He's an avowed Christian, and I'm anything but. He carries a gun, I'm a pacifist. For the first time, we acknowledged this philosophical chasm between us -- territory that, up to this point, we've dared not approach. We tip-toed out to the edge of the cliff, testing the wide-open air of lives lived in vastly different worlds. We debated and knocked heads together but under it all was the ease that, if one is lucky, comes with being family. Maybe one of us just needed to grow up -- me, perhaps? Perhaps.

Old plumbing, old house: this is how I've come to know my nephew. Being from a large family, he's one of many nephews, but the only one I ever seem to see. He knows his stuff when it comes to pipes, and he's a sweetheart to do work for me. The boy -- and I'll never think of him as anything but a boy, despite his age -- has a generous soul borne out of equally generous parents. He tries to insist, often, on just charging me for parts, and I insist on paying him for labor. He give me a deal. I get to know him, he gets to know me.

After an hour+ of spirited kitchen-table talk, I herded him towards the door. Wasn't he as tired as I was, after a full day of work? Probably not. We'd covered politics, religion, The Constitution, the American banking system, gun-control, the value of family, revolution and, of course, plumbing: toilet models, pedestal vs. vanity sinks, clawfoot tubs and then-some. I'd illustrated my POV with a black sharpie on the back of an envelope: arrows and charts and numbers, including some odd squiggles and underlinings (although, the next morning, I couldn't for the life of me tell you what any of those black marks meant). 

Upon leaving, he was loaded down with tools, and I got the door for him. Now, I am 99.999% certain that he doesn't read my blog, and so would have no idea that this week I'd already written of the delight I take in chatting with the various repair/handy-people that seem to be making my house a destination. And yet, as he was going down my front steps, he turned and looked back up and me, smiled, and said, "I liked the conversation."

No need to say that I did too.

Monday, October 3, 2011


There's a man in my bathroom, with a saw, cursing at old pipes which will not ease their rusted grip on the century these eleven years past. (I quickly learn that it's not necessary for me to come running when he expounds on the state of This Old House.)

O ye useless pipes.

A new floor, a new sink, new toilet, new trim. The old clawfoot tub, about a million pounds and an ornery bastard to negotiate. The carpenter and I moved it on Saturday, careful to not crush toes or arches, bones. Devised a way to drag it, on a second-hand rug and a length of cardboard box found in the garage, and flattened. Now the tub sits in the kitchen and looks embarassed, like a woman caught bathing on a riverbank. Surrounded by the chaos of Home Improvement. Paint. Drop cloths. Etc.

It's always an adventure having someone work on the house. There's the conversation -- or sometimes not. I prefer the conversation, the digging beneath the hired skills to discover the fallibility of the human on the other side of the tools. The half-spoken clues to a life lived elsewhere. Every soul with his/her story.

This particular soul exclaims loudly and often. The same man that I heard cursing and conversing with a 40-year-old Toyota engine in the process of repair, parked on the street outside where I work, a year or two ago. How contained and finite our world seems, at times. Now he's making his commotion chez-moi, amidst a new floor which resembles cork but is actually vinyl, and was a beast to install. But it's my new floor and last night I was tempted to lie face-down on it and extend a warm embrace. Good-bye old life. Hello new faux cork.


My days once again are spent often in the presence of carpenters/contractors/builders with a cultural and intellectual intelligence that challenges stereotypes. It's something I missed sorely in my recent life afield. Glad to be back among the literati carpenteria. The woman who, last spring, installed my new shower, just began law school on a full-ride scholarship. Goddamn.

Easier, with this backdrop, to process the curt note from NoGoode which arrived in the mail. His explanation for Things Neglected. I would prefer not even a microscopic specimen of his DNA in my home, but perhaps in this tying-up of last details I can look forward to a fall-winter-and-onto-spring with a horizon clear of turbulence.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

In The Moment: Gratitude

I listened to Melinda, yesterday, speak of a transcending moment -- one of those moments of clarity that arise, seemingly, out of the ethosphere: god and physics and the collision of science and faith and the notion of we-are-a-single-organism and we only exist right at this moment, right now. No past, no future, everything flowing and rippling simultaneously. I recall the word hallelujah being spoken, and we discussed religion and the existence of god or a god, and trying to define a notion of "god".

The bookkeeper arrived and dove right in, told about having belonged to a theosophical society at one time. This stuff fascinates me.

We often converse like this -- in the midst of a certain level of chaos -- a million tasks all screaming for attention simultaneously. I don't quite remember how many orders I packed and prepped for the UPS pick-up, but there seemed to be a constant going in-and-out, up-and-down stairs from house/factory to garage/studio, the locking and unlocking of doors, the hefting of unwieldy boxes. The careful wrapping of delicate glass pieces so that they won't break in shipping while attempting to keep shipping costs down -- a constant challenge, and something which I puzzle over daily, because glass inevitably breaks, in spite of the utmost care. And then there's the re-imagining of recycled gin/whiskey/tequila boxes into suitable shipping containers. (One must conceal any reference to alcohol on the exterior of the box.)

At one point in the day a heavy binder slipped onto the computer keyboard and activated "voice-over" (what the?) and suddenly a male voice was narrating every key stroke that Melinda made:

"You are pressing the shift key. You are now in a window. You are scrolling down...."

On and on. And oddly, the voice speeded up, and Melinda couldn't figure out how to turn it off. I began to laugh, of course, and suggested she google "turn off voice-over" and she did, all the while with this narration blaring at her. I descended into one of my laughing fits with tears streaming down my cheeks. So absurd! I half expected the voice to scold me for laughing and (according to reports) drooling on the keyboard. (I contend it was a hilarity-tear.)

Out. Of. Control.

She finally was successful, and Mr. Voice-Over was silenced. Phew!

(Thank you, Mr. Anonymous-Voice-Over, for that moment of wild abandoned fun!)

But to focus back on the subject I intended to write about here, I received an email from my friend Candy this morning with a link to this TED video. I so love when the theme continues, from unconnected sources! (But then again, we're all connected....)